Although its energy is appealing, Pure Love's debut album ultimately doesn't offer anything fresh.
Anthems, the debut LP by English-American rock duo Pure Love, exudes a lot of modesty, energy, and honesty. A powerful blend of British charm and stateside bluntness, the record is full of tight performances, engaging vocals, and a sufficient amount of internal variety. Unfortunately, when assessed externally (within the genre and recent music scene), it really doesn’t offer anything special. Like many albums, it’s enjoyable without being exceptional; it suffices without surprising.
Formed a mere two years ago by former Gallows singer Frank Carter and ex-The Suicide File and Hope Conspiracy guitarist Jim Carroll, Pure Love somewhat individualizes itself by decorating its rock foundation with touches of glam, pop, punk, and grunge. In fact, the group effectively captures a bit of the early ‘70s rock spirit, which is no doubt due to Anthems’ impressive amount of guest musicians. At the same time, though, the record finds Pure Love somewhat coming off as a harsher (and paler) imitation of its more innovative and intriguing forefathers, such as Blur and Oasis. You’ll definitely be pulled in by it, but you’ll also notice that you’ve heard it all before.
With a sound as bold as its title, “She (Makes the Devil Run Through me)” starts things off with sharp precision. Carter’s voice slightly recalls the edginess of punk favorites like Billie Joe Armstrong and Joe Strummer, but it’s less nuanced and unique (which, in some ways, makes it more accessible). The guitar work and percussion is biting, fast, and refined, making the song quite fiery and involving. “Bury My Bones” and “The Hits” continue the trend in a more anthemic and direct way; actually, these two songs would be a perfect fit for Rock Band or Guitar Hero (if these series were still popular, that is).
Things become more somber and slow with “Anthems”, which finds Carter bellowing over a waltz time. With its inclusion of piano and silence, it gives the album a nice tinge of emotion, as well as a much needed change of pace. “Beach of Diamonds” is catchier and upbeat; it could easily be a radio hit, while “Heavy Kind of Chain” feels like a lost Weezer ballad (which isn’t a bad thing). Its pain is complemented by its humility, and the instrumental moments contain a mournful beauty. “Scared to Death” is among the most raucous and unapologetic songs here; from the opening bass riff to the closing dissonance, the track oozes rebellion. “Riot Song” and “March of the Pilgrims” are similarly invigorating, as they’re vitality conveys the excitement of a gallant conclusion. By the end, Pure Love definitely came, saw, and conquered.
Although Anthems earns all of the aforementioned praise for being a thoroughly thrilling affair, it still suffers from a concrete sense of sameness and familiarity. Pure Love continuously uses the same few tactics, which makes their scope somewhat limited. Along the same lines, there is barely any sense of newness to it. They deserve credit for writing and performing confidently with such specificity, but they also deserve some derision for failing to even attempt straying from the pack. Anthems is a good entry into a genre that still offers better.